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Greeley man becomes first to receive FDA-approved plastic heart stent

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LOVELAND, Colo. -- There has been a major development in the treatment of coronary heart disease, which kills more people worldwide than anything else.

The Federal Drug Administration just approved the first fully dissolvable heart stent last month.

And two weeks ago, a Greeley man became the first in Colorado to receive the milestone procedure at the first hospital in our state to use it.

Stephen Hoffelt is always on the go.

"And if we're lucky, we get to go fishing next week,” he says to his dog, Paddington, on a walk through his neighborhood.

The 70-year-old, a man on the go, until a near heart attack stopped him.

"Down I went. Boom, Just like that, fractured my wrist," he says. “I got up and started down the hallway. I’m not even aware that I did that. Down I went again.”

Twice, he fell at his home, within minutes, just four weeks ago.

"It was a frightening thing," says Hoffelt.

A week later, he learned he had coronary artery disease.

"There were two blockages on that particular artery," he tells media assembled at UCHealth’s Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland.

The diagnosis came just weeks after MCR got approval to implant the latest technology in heart stents made out of plastic.

"It's the same plastic they use for absorbable sutures," says Dr. Anthony Doing, a cardiologist and primary investigator for the Abbott's Absorb bioresorbable vascular scafford clinical trials at the hospital.

He says the stent is placed into a blocked artery by using a balloon and breaking up plaque.

The stent then keeps the artery open and disappears completely in about three years.

Metal stents are the standard. But they’re permanent and require the patient take lifelong medicine.

There can also be complications if the artery closes over the metal stent. Doctors have to balloon open the artery and place another stent inside the implanted stent.

That probably doubles the rate at which the artery will close up again, compared to the first time, says Dr. Doing.

And long-term, the hospital says there's little to no chance the artery will close up again.

"Putting something like that through your wrist, you’ve got to be kidding. It really is astounding and my life has changed certainly for the better," says Hoffelt.

He is the first in Colorado to receive the FDA-approved milestone procedure, though the hospital implanted 13 of the devices in clinical trials.

"A week ago I could hardly walk this hill," he says on his morning walk.

He's a man back on his feet, with a heart on the mend--a grandfather of eight whose gratitude really comes from the heart.

"I’m very grateful to be here. There's no way to thank them enough," he says.